SINGAPORE - The move to let people from Switzerland tap a scheme for vaccinated travellers to enter Singapore without quarantine will be especially useful for businesses, said experts.
The Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) for travellers flying in from Switzerland has also been welcomed by the country, which said the move reflects its strong ties with Singapore.
Transport Minister S. Iswaran announced on Tuesday (Oct 26) that the Republic will expand the VTL to Australia and Switzerland from Nov 8.
Under the scheme, vaccinated travellers will be able to enter Singapore without having to serve a stay-home notice. Instead, they have to test negative in Covid-19 polymerase chain reaction tests 48 hours before departure for Singapore and upon arrival.
Switzerland's Ambassador to Singapore, Mr Fabrice Filliez, told The Straits Times that Swiss diplomacy has been active in making the case for the country's inclusion in a VTL.
"The VTL is of particular significance for Switzerland and confirms the strong and mutually beneficial bilateral cooperation between our countries," he added.
He noted that Switzerland is among the top European trading and investment partners of Singapore. About 400 Swiss companies operate here, including large banks, insurance companies, pharmaceutical firms and education institutions.
They contribute to more than an estimated 25,000 jobs in Singapore, said Mr Filliez.
There are also about 3,000 Swiss nationals living in Singapore.
"In terms of leisure travel, Singapore was the second-most important source market for Switzerland in South-east Asia in pre-Covid times," Mr Filliez added.
"But apart from these economic considerations, I am also glad that many families will be able to see their relatives more easily than before. Many haven't seen their loved ones for nearly two years."
Switzerland had this week reported a seven-day average of 1,294 Covid-19 cases, a 33 per cent rise from the week before.
About 62 per cent of its population has been fully vaccinated against Covid-19.
Mr Mohshin Aziz, director of the Pangolin Aviation Recovery Fund, said Switzerland's location next to Italy, France and Germany makes it particularly important from a connectivity standpoint.
"A lot of people who have business dealings in the three countries will also have an interest in Switzerland," he said. "Switzerland is a humongous financial hub and so is Singapore, and therefore it is important to have connectivity between these two countries."
He expects the VTL scheme to be used mostly by business travellers.
He also urged the authorities to simplify the travel requirements, so people looking to enter Singapore would not have to struggle with the administrative processes.
Independent aviation analyst Brendan Sobie from Sobie Aviation said Switzerland was an obvious candidate for the VTL scheme.
"VTLs have been established with all other countries that Singapore Airlines (SIA) flies to in Western Europe, so by adding Switzerland, it gives travellers more flexibility to travel around Europe and fly back from any SIA gateway," said Mr Sobie.
He added that the Switzerland VTL also levels the playing field from a business perspective. This is because excluding only Switzerland in terms of countries that SIA flies to in Western Europe was unfair to Swiss companies with ties here or Singapore companies with ties there, he said.
Mr Sobie called for Singapore to expand the VTL scheme to the entire Schengen Area, which refers to the zone comprising 26 European countries that have abolished internal borders for the free and unrestricted movement of people.
Countries within the Schengen Area include seven under the VTL scheme, and three others – Greece, Poland and Finland – that have flights to Singapore. The remaining 16 countries do not have flights to Singapore.
"This is a sensible next step, given the Schengen Area does not have actual borders," said Mr Sobie.
Covid-19 rules in Switzerland
For entry into Switzerland
- People aged at least 16 who have not been vaccinated or recovered from the virus are required to produce a negative Covid-19 test result. They must be tested again four to seven days after entry.
- Testing is not required for vaccinated or recovered travellers who present valid proof.
- Children under the age of 16 are exempted from Covid-19 testing.
Covid-19 restrictions on the ground
- People aged at least 16 are required to present their Covid-19 certificate to access indoor spaces like restaurants, bars and museums.
- Mask wearing is not required outdoors. But anyone aged at least 12 travelling on public transport (trains, trams, buses, mountain railways, cable cars, ships and planes) must still wear face masks.
- Anyone found violating anti-pandemic measures, such as failing to wear a mask on public transport or attending large private indoor gatherings, can be fined 50 Swiss francs (S$73) to 200 Swiss francs.